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ACSA West Regional Meeting Minneapolis, Minnesota, Fall 1993:

Terri Meyer Boake B.E.S. B.Arch. M.Arch. Associate Professor School of Architecture University of Waterloo





I studied architectural design during the late 1970's. Although we were instructed in perspective construction (of a cube) as an extraneous part of our first year Design Studio curriculum, and then requested to illustrate our knowledge of this technique by drawing a perspective of a solar house; no further instruction ensued. The process seemed tedious and the resulting illustration, not always complementary to the project designed. The majority were soon taken with recent publications of complex axonometric projectory drawings by the like of Peter Eisenman in his House Series, and Mario Botta, and proceeded to include this type of accurate three dimensional representation as the concluding representation of a complete project presentation. It was certainly faster and easier to construct than a perspective, and satisfied a requirement to illustrate the three dimensionality of the project or massing. Criticism seldom levied fault with the drawing technique chosen as failing to properly represent the spatial concepts that we were attempting to communicate through our drawings. When perspectives were attempted, albeit infrequently and after much expenditure of time, they too seemed to improperly represent the built environment. Why did the perspectives, although supposedly accurately constructed, show the project up badly? During my thesis preparation in the early 1980's, I happened upon a quotation by Bernhard Schneider in an issue of the Berlin Architectural Journal, "Perspective Refers to the Viewer, Axonometry Refers to the Object".1 This statement, at the time, revealed much about the nature of representation and its relationship to visual perception. It encouraged me to independently delve into a critical history of representational techniques, to increase my knowledge, which aided in the development of a


Bernhard. Perspective Refers to the Viewer, Axonometry Refers to the Object. Daidalos 1. (Berlin Architectural Journal, Berlin, 1981) p. 81

critical eye. This study revealed not only the deficiencies in previous perspective renderings due to insufficient understanding of the techniques, but as well, the important relationship that mathematics and science play in the development of the perceptual characteristics and in the manipulation of the perspective drawing. Following graduation and a subsequent additional degree, I undertook some responsibility for major curricular changes at my alma mater, within our Technology stream of study. This included initiating in depth studies on the history of perspective, applied perspective and geometry. Mathematics, Perspective and the Manipulation of Perception: It is of the utmost importance that perspective rendering be taught to beginning design students; not merely as a tool for representation, but as a science, a field of applied mathematics, a technology, a technique of representation with the capabilities of altering our visual perception of the environment. The historical development of perspective, and its relationship to spatial perception and communication will aid in the development of a critical eye -- in the same way that cultural history is taught to educate students about the origins of architectural thought in order to develop a critical mind capable of creating meaningful, contextual architecture. "Among the studies of natural causes and laws, it is light that most delights students. Among all the great branches of mathematics, the certainty of its pre-eminently elevates the minds of its investigators. demonstrations disciplines.

Perspective, therefore, should be preferred above all man's discourses and In this subject the visual rays are elucidated by means of demonstrations which derive their glory not only from mathematics but also from physics; the one is adorned equally with the flowers of the other." Leonardo da Vinci2 It is understood within architectural design that due to the complexity of real built space and the void that exists between the reality of the object and the representation of that object, that the technique selected for imaging the built space will have profound ramifications on the of that space, the illusion of reality -- the viewed perception manipulated perception

achieved by the representation, may differ greatly from the reality of the built environment. Within the scope of making proper use of a technique, it is often necessary to trace that technique back to its origins or invention in order to properly understand, use, and subsequently, exploit to the fullest of its potential, the technique. Historical research can also be used to

highlight the limitations of techniques through the exploration of the sequential development of the technique. The representational shortfall of Renaissance one-point perspective techniques, for instance, can be clearly exposed through an examination of the treatises ,practices and representations of that period. Where techniques are applied in the absence of knowledge, their results often lack a certain profoundness, and an inability to manipulate the technique to the user's advantage. This holds true in the field of representation, with respect to fully exploiting the perceptual relationships evolving between the object and its representation, and the representational image and the viewer. Since the purpose of drawing in the design process is to represent ideas, and ultimately, communicate the perception of a carefully selected view of the reality (of an object or space), the proper application of and manipulation of a technique is of paramount importance within the discourse of architecture. It is necessary to become involved with the actual rudimentary construction of a perspective drawing -- the choice of a one, two or three point view, the selection of the station point, height of horizon line, cone of view, the location of the picture plane and vanishing points -- in order to be able to manipulate the selections to the advantage of the view. Such mathematically informed decisions may also be used as design tools, to manipulate and control forms or views connected with architectural design. To posit the need to develop expertise and experience through hands on construction techniques is not meant to diminish the importance of computer assisted perspective drawing with its ability to hasten the process and allow for a multitude of investigations -- only to give the designer increased understanding of the perceptual manipulations and the multitude of representations of reality possible given the number of parameters which may be independently changed, and to ultimately assist in the selection of the most desirable view or form for building. Integrating the Historical Origins of the Perspective Process: The historical origins and development of perspective rendering techniques should be taught as a device which can enhance familiarity with a particular process, illustrate the proper method, highlight the advantages of the type of representation in question, and, illustrate its shortcomings or natural distortions. Discussion of the distortions can lead into an exploration of subsequent This can begin to speak to ideas of spatial uses for the distortion in the field of applied illusion -- be that within illustrative techniques or in the creation of architectural form or spaces. often in a very cold and calculating manner. perception, the operation of vision, and how scientific perspective attempts to rationalize site


Martin. The Science of Art. p.5

Students should come to understand that the invention of perspective drawing during the Renaissance and subsequently, projective geometry during the Baroque period, and the adoption of their use as operative methods of illustration by designers, architects and painters throughout Europe, radically changed the representation of space, perception of space and ultimately, its architectural design, through a process of spatial discovery which was directly connected to particular tendencies to arrange space from the standpoint of perspective view. Additionally, consistent with the humanist contention, based on the writings of Vitruvius, that man is the measure of all things, single point perspective served to reinforce the idea by creating a spatial perception that the built environment relates to a contrived view by man at his eye level. Most students whose background in perspective would be high school based are surprised to discover that the advancements of and refinement to the various perspective related techniques developed through the Renaissance and Baroque periods were heavily indebted to both mathematical and scientific discoveries and relationships, and that during this time architects, scientists and mathematicians sought to discover and document the theoretical properties of geometrical perspective in order to set them forth in such a manner as to make them universally comprehensible and applicable -- to connect theory to practice.3 Students are normally unaware that such studies found some of their roots in medieval studies of Euclidian geometry and optics, and that it took several hundred years for perspective studies to advance beyond primary geometric studies associated with establishing rules for dimunition and attempt a detailed examination of the perceptual implications of vision and illusion. The teaching of the historical aspects of perspective can be divided into a series of "perceptual zones", each related to the technique under development, its level of mathematical and scientific understanding, associated applications, and the acknowledged relationship to sight. Broad categories would commence with the rudiments of medieval dimunition techniques, early Renaissance one-point perspective, the development of the 'tiers point scheme', Baroque illusory techniques, anamorphosis, projective geometry, and, the development of two-point perspective, and highlight associated representational and perceptual studies. In examining the history of perspective drawing, students must see that there is a traceable relationship between the increased level of scientific and mathematical reasoning in the development of perspective technology, and the ability of artists and architects to depict space and built form; firstly, in a convincing realistic manner free of distortion, and secondly, and

Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science. pp. 97-100. "Desargues sought to establish a general geometric science, one that might effectively become the basis for such diverse technical operations such as perspective, stone- and wood-cutting for construction...he aspired toward the rational control of practice, not an explanation of its reasons. ... Desargues emphasized that there was no difference between the drawing of a plan and that of a perspective, as long as an appropriate scale

perhaps most interestingly, using distortionary techniques to achieve the illusion of reality. The study should show that the connection between the form of representation (perspective) and the space or architectural piece represented underwent an evolution as analysis began to reveal the relationship between the construction of the perspective drawing and sight -- i.e.. a realization about visual perception. The presentation of the late medieval period is best illustrated by discussing fourteenth century artists, such as Giotto, who relied on adopted systematic techniques which were based upon a set of "rules"4 which had evolved over time through trial and error, and which at the time comprised the best method for the "realistic" representation of architectural settings. Given the unscientific nature of the "rules", and the inconsistency of their adoption by various artists, the resultant fourteenth century images lack rigor and precision -- they remained erroneous, and at times, comical. Even the subsequent invention of the "bifocal rule of construction"5 did little to

increase the accuracy of perspective drawing, and failed to relate the resultant planar image to the sense of sight. The disjointed notions related to perspective drawing at this time were aimed at making the image appear "correct". Although lacking a systematic technology, this forms the initial acknowledgment that perspective representation could somehow achieve visual manipulation of space. Students can often relate to problems with visual correctness in medieval painting as it often reflects their own early unscientific attempts at sketch perspectives. The discussion of early Renaissance perspective naturally begins with Filippo Brunelleschi, who is credited with the invention of linear perspective around the year 1413 6, and within his "centric point construction", with the realization that the perspective view relates as a frontal view of the visual pyramid of sight. By introducing a single vanishing point for all lines in the image, Brunelleschi unified the image, but still failed to identify a rigorous means by which to measure the depth of the representation. Leon Battista Alberti's invention of single point perspective can be well used to illustrate to students the notion of the perspective view as it relates to the viewer. Alberti undertook to solve the chief technical problem of perspective drawing; that is, to find a rule of construction which of real dimensions projected to infinity was used." Martin. The Science of Art. p.9 "...general rules which may be summarised as: those lines and planes situated above eye-level should appear to incline downwards as hey move away from the spectator; those below eye-level should incline upwards; those to the left should incline inwards to the right; those to the right should incline inwards to the left; there should be some sense of the horizontal division and the vertical division which mark the boundaries between the zones; and along those divisions the lines should be inclined little if at all." 5Gadol, Joan. Leon Battista Alberti. p.34 6Kemp, Martin. The Science of Art. p.9

relates the diminishing of spatial intervals so to appear as a regular proportional progression. Alberti made a clear connection between the mathematical measuring of surveying and perspective representation -- the affinity between the two as methods of seeing.7 It was Alberti's clear identification of the pyramid of sight that allowed for the invention of his costruzione legittima which constituted the first quantifiable single point perspective technique. In costruzione legittima Alberti succeeds in making "the virtual space of the picture ... to appear as a convincing extension of the viewer's "actual" space." 8 "Alberti's perspective scheme of 1435-1436 marked the effectual beginning of the substitution of visual for tactile space awareness because its novel procedure of central projection and section not only automatically brought parallel lines together in logically determinable vanishing points, but provided a basis for the hitherto missing grammar or rules for securing both logical relations within the system of symbols employed and a reciprocal or two-way, metrical correspondence between the pictoral representations of objects and the shapes of those objects as located in space."9 Although his process makes landmark achievements in the realm of representational perception, in setting down the rules and explaining the process in "Della Pittura", students should be made aware that Alberti failed to successfully deal with aspects of visual distortion inherent in the single point perspective. The centric point schemes are theoretically governed by Euclidean geometry, and the central point is not acknowledged directly as a "vanishing point" as this would conflict with the Euclidean notion of parallel lines. Alberti is not thought to have had much concern with the science of optics, and the effect of the structure of the eye on the perception of the perspective view.


Joan. Leon Battista Alberti. p.40 "The mathematical bond between the traditional perspectival theory of vision and the newly forming theory of painting named after it was provided by the idea of the picture as a section of the pyramid of sight. This idea is what enabled Alberti to formulate the problem of depiction as one of applied plane geometry, for his rules of construction clearly stem from the connection he saw between the intersecting picture plane and the intersecting measuring rod of the surveyor... The surveyor's measuring rod and the sightings obtained on it present, in fact, a profile, or one cross section of a visual pyramid when thus interpreted. Alberti made this interpretation; and by this bold stroke of mathematical imagination, he came to model the pictorial representation of things upon the methods of geometric surveying. This is why he insists that in seeing, "one makes triangles."" 8Gadol, Joan. Leon Battista Alberti. p.53 9Ivins, William M. Jr. On the Rationalization of Sight. p.10

Alberti's ideas can be reinforced by reference to Piero della Francesca, a major perspective theorist of the period, who undertook the study of the optical aspects of perspective and the geometrical implications, particularly in its Euclidean aspects. The depth of his study reveals that like Alberti, he was more concerned with the analysis of the geometrical properties and consequences of the visual pyramid, taking its very existence for granted.10 His treatise is a logical extension of the Albertian geometry of vision. "First is sight, that is to say the eye; second is the form of the thing seen; third is the distance from the eye to the thing seen; fourth are the lines which leave the boundaries of the object and come to the eye; fifth is the intersection, which comes between the eye and the thing seen, and on it which is intended to record the object."11 Piero began to address the issue of distortion in the one-point perspective by citing that since only the front quarter of the eye(ball) is exposed, that the cone of view should be restricted to 90 degrees or less or the projection of a square in plan would appear to be deeper than it is wide. Students will be able to see that this aspect of distortion is prevalent in most of the central schemes of the period. Piero failed to recognize, however, that limiting the angle of view to less than 90 degrees would not completely eliminate this undesirable type of distortion. geometric investigations into proportional perspective systems. the object to the represented. His capabilities in pure and applied mathematics enabled him to put forward numerous, detailed It is helpful at this point to illustrate the variation in perspective representations by changing the distance from the viewer to It can be clearly demonstrated that the 90 degree limit was incorrect, and lead into a discussion of the modern preference for a 60 degree cone of vision. This can also be expanded into the notion of ''normalizing the view" by modifying the distance to the station point, whether or not this is a realistic or possible vantage point, or even a desired one. The development of the 'tiers point' scheme may be shown to illustrate how throughout the Late Renaissance and Baroque Periods, numerous architects, designers and painters were to embrace perspective techniques, increase their accuracy and the understanding of the methods, resulting in more adeptness in their application, both to painting and the construction of architectural space. "Leonardo da Vinci reduced it to a form...Viator published the variant which is now known in the studios as the three-point perspective...Durer...was acquainted with the method of projection and section, but failed to understand it...Vignola, in the first half of the sixteenth

Martin. The Science of Art. p.27

century, taught both the costruzione legittima and the three-point method...Guidobaldo del Monte... summed up the perspective knowledge of the sixteenth century and worked out a number of elaborate variations but seemingly added little to the basic theory. He is said to have been the first to use the phrase "vanishing point"."12 Studies into the 'tiers point' scheme would include Leonardo Da Vinci who did much to further explorations into perspective techniques, not only in reference to theoretical and geometrical principles, but through detailed scientific investigations relating to vision and the eye. Leonardo spent much time examining the implications of the geometry of visual pyramid of sight on the dimunition of the object as it relates to the distance from the viewer. "His notebooks indicate a growing awareness of the vulnerability of orthodox perspective, particularly on a large scale and with relatively close viewing distances. ... The factors which led him to subvert the rationality of painter's perspective resided both within the system itself and in its relationship to physiological optics. ... he clearly became acutely conscious of the problem of viewpoint."13 Carlo Pedretti in his studies of Leonardo's perspective paintings is able to reconstruct many of the perspective construction drawings, plans, sections and elevations that would have been used to create the scientific perspectives. Interestingly, Pedretti uses axonometric projections to depict the relationships between the picture plane, perspective, plan, and elevations, which highlights to the students the different purposes which may be associated with the several representational techniques. Included are studies of his "Last Supper" c.1497. Leonardo had executed numerous studies and perspectival experiments connected with the creating of the painting of "The Last Supper". Through these studies he was able to identify three types of perspective constructions, each with their own purpose and set of criteria; namely, natural perspective, which refers to the relative size of objects in a realistic presentation; artificial perspective, in which the painter may foreshorten or distort the objects in the perspective representation to create an illusion; and, compound perspective, where the artist distorts the objects on the plane, in addition to distorting the plane itself. This notion came to be called anamorphic imagery.14 The connection in the

11Kemp, 12Ivins,

Martin. The Science of Art. p.27 William M. Jr. On the Rationalization of Sight. p.10 13Kemp, Martin. The Science of Art. p.49 14Cole, Alison. Perspective. p.33 "An anamorphic image is an extreme case of perspective, where the viewpoint is at the side, and near the plane, of the picture itself. First a square grid is placed over the undistorted image, to determine the key points of the design. ... The artist then draws a distorted grid, onto which the design is transferred - a side view in which the proportions are drastically altered, but the points of the grid fall on the same places in the design."

student's study to anamorphic imagery is an important step in beginning to allow for purposeful manipulation of the perspective and projective geometry tools to achieve certain goals. Renaissance perspective study may be extended to the influence of perspective and its associated mathematics to other scientific endeavours through the vehicle of the architectural treatise. By the end of the fifteenth century, one-point perspective techniques were widely accepted in the practice of painting and architectural representation. Interest and excellence spread from Italy to Northern Europe, where studies were furthered and more treatises on the subject were prepared. Perspectival geometry was adopted into a large number of the applied sciences through the process of visual analysis. Particular attention was paid in the field of surveying, mapping and geography -- from whence some of the original practices and notions of perspective had originated. Alberti's invention of the "Horizon" for mapping, and the use of the "Astrolobe", in conjunction with geometrical applications of similar triangles, extended the notion of the "visual pyramid" of sight, which placed man in the center of the view of the universe. The study of treatises on perspective is an important aspect of the study of perspective as the reading of the treatise and its illustrations helps the student to gain a clearer understanding of the importance of the subject, its interpretation, specific techniques and usual subject matter. Jean Pelerin's (Viator's) treatise on perspective, published in 1505, spread the influence of perspective North of the Alps through skillful illustrations of applied perspective. differ with the norm via his adoption of the 'tiers point' Although like other perspectivists of the period, his views are largely classic frontal positions, his methods begin to method (whose form was similar to the distance point construction). This method used a 'principal point' (central vanishing point) and the two 'tiers points' at either side. Viator recognized that the 'tiers points' needed to be moved further apart as the spectator's distance increased; however, he was not overly concerned with the concept of the viewing distance. His works served to influence Albrecht Durer. Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) was responsible for spreading perspective theory to Late Gothic Germany. His treatise "Instruction in Measurement with Compass and Ruler in Lines, Planes and Solid Bodies", published in Nuremberg in 1525, clearly sets his analysis of perspective within a mathematical context. It is through the student's examination of Durer's woodcuts, in particular that of the perspective device with the woman as the subject of the draftsman's cold gaze, that an understanding can be attained regarding the growing tendency of the artist to objectify and distance himself from nature. This represents an interesting turning point in reference to the humanist viewer centered approach, formerly intended to accurately relate to and represent reality. A study of his treatise is telling of this growing attitude. The text is divided into four books, centering on extrapolations of Euclidean geometrical theories into investigations of conics, solids and the properties of polyhedra, and culminating with an analysis of geometrical


His accurate perspective method used intersections on a plane from plan and He included light and shade in his Durer

elevation, much in the way demonstrated by Piero.

representations citing that they were an integral part of any perspective drawing.

recognized the practical limitations of accurate perspective by intersection method and stereotomy and subsequently invented a shorter technique for creating a foreshortened 'tile pattern' onto which figures could be drawn. This technique was similar to Alberti's centric point scheme. Northern perspective theorists in the Nuremberg region who followed Durer's writings spent much effort in investigations of perspective renderings of the platonic solids which is evidenced in the work of Wenzel Jamnitzer. Sebastiano Serlio's (1475-1554) treatise on perspective and geometry was published in Paris in 1545. It is a worthwhile inclusion for study as it is one of the first treatises to approach the subject in a practical manner, and provides numerous illustrations whose construction techniques are quite accessible. Although it served as a very influential document during the Renaissance, (particularly in France) being one of the earliest books to be written in a vernacular language (other than Latin), well illustrated and practical in its intent, the accuracy of the method of single point perspective that Serlio depicts is deemed to be erroneous by some.15 A comparison for the students with the method proposed by Alberti is enlightening at this point as it highlights the importance to be realized of the distance from the viewer to the picture plane. Alberti's method, although more correct, results in greater foreground distortion than does Serlio's, whose sloped picture plane flattens the perspective view and alleviates some of the foreground distortion. There are those who feel that Sebastiano Serlio in Book II of his Five Books of Architecture (1545), via his method for one-point perspective, and ultimately, his use of the distance point scheme (similar to Viator's 'tiers point' scheme) which appears to create two-point perspective, begins to manipulate the construction to reduce foreground distortion. Serlio clearly attempts to address the issue of the Horizon, its relationship to eye level, and the distance of the viewer from the picture plane -- with an emphasis on achieving a more "pleasant" view of the work.16 Through this Serlio clearly infers that there exist aspects of technical perspective construction which may be manipulated to increase the perception of pleasantry. paper. Serlio's scenographic studies take these ideas even further, an illusional aspect which will be discussed later in this


Martin. The Science of Art. p.66 "Serlio was not a perspectivist of notable mathematical competence by Italian standards. His first method is quite simply erroneous, while his second, which is obviously the distance point method, wrongly gives the viewing distance as GF. It is a wonder that his perspectival drawings of actual buildings work as well as they do." 16Serlio, Sebastiano. The Five Books of Architecture. The Second Book. The Second Chapter. p.1


The perfecting of the 'tiers point' scheme can be illustrated using the works of Jean Cousin and Vignola. The French sixteenth century perspectivist Jean Cousin ( 1490-1560) was ultimately responsible for perfecting the 'tiers point' method. Through his work and writings it became a reliable and understandable technique. Nonetheless, the visual angles remain wide and somewhat distorted, conveying little information about the spectator's distance from the picture plane. He realized that sets of lines within the view which are neither parallel, perpendicular or at a 45o angle to the view converge to their own 'accidental' points.17 In Vignola's (1507-73) "Due Regole della Prospettiva Practica" he analyzes the two recognized methods for perspective construction, the full scale technique of intersections on a picture plane (costruzione legittima) , and the distance point (tiers points) construction. Vignola stated that the purpose of his treatise was to clear up the confusion created by partisan followers of each method, each claiming that their method of representation alone was correct. Vignola closely analyzed each method, equally demonstrating that both were geometrically accurate and useful. Using the perspective construction of a cube he showed that the identical result was possible using either the intersection or the distance point method. A study of the Baroque period elucidates the enlarged impact of perspective technique development on adjacent fields of study. Up to this point in time, the study of perspective had centered around the representational interests of the artistic community alone, with a fringe of interested mathematicians providing input. The second half of the sixteenth century marked an expansion of the science of perspective into related mathematical and scientific fields, both of a pure and an applied nature. Perspective was recognized as being essential in the studies of cartographic projection, astronomical measurement and cosmological geometry. Ptolemy. "The success of the humanist mathematicians in uncovering, clarifying, translating and providing commentaries on the major texts of the ancient authors should not be seen as peripheral to the scientific revolution. The mastery of the Greek and Latin texts was an essential stage in the attempt to 'surpass the ancients', and the extensive publishing of new and better-understood texts by the classical mathematicians played an integral part in the founding of the 'new sciences'. Nowhere was this more apparent than in three dimensional geometry. All the major theorists of geometrical perspective in Italy after 1550 were engaged in the search for the 'true' Euclid, in order to understand and amplify his exact science.


scholarship also expanded alongside increased knowledge of the works of Archimedes and

... Studies of Ptolemaic projection were central to the

Martin. The Science of Art. p.67


concerns of Commandino and Danti ... and became thoroughly enmeshed with the artists' science.18 Perspective studies during this period are increasingly more vital as they begin to show an increased interest in the geometrical aspects of optical studies, the relationship of the viewer to the view depicted, the scientific involvement of the eye as a viewing instrument, and, distortion and illusion as inherent properties of representation. Studies pertaining to vision and distortion clearly illustrate an increasing depth to perspective study, beyond the static one-point representations of the early Renaissance. Daniele Barbaro (1513-1570) recognized that there were two aspects of optics: geometrical, from which the subject derives its 'reason'; and physical, concerning the nature of vision.19 He was interested in the geometry behind natural forms as comprehended by the proportional procedures of sight.20 constructed geometry of regular bodies. missed the true divinity of geometry. Barbaro's contemporary, Egnatio Danti, a professional mathematician, in contrast, approached the study of perspective from a practical artistic viewpoint in his own edition of Vignola's "Due Regole". He was able to circumscribe the problem of the mobile eye, by stating that the painter shows what is visible only in a single opening of a fixed eye. Later in his commentary he amplifies this with a careful discussion of the proper viewing distance, which must be of adequate length to take in all the picture at a single glance.21 Danti's fellow mathematician Guidobaldo del Monte (1545-1609) through his book, "Perspectivae libri sex" (1600), came to be regarded as the main source of reference for anyone interested in the underlying geometry of perspectival projection. Here we see the initial recognition of projective geometry as a unique discipline. Guidobaldo's book was poorly illustrated in reference to pictoral technique and its mathematical bent made it somewhat inaccessible to artists of the time. As the scientific study of perspective became detailed to the point of becoming almost incomprehensible to the artistic community, providing techniques which were beyond their representational needs, it began to enter the mainstream of scientific discoveries and extrapolations. Sciences and advanced fields of mathematics that relied on three-dimensional geometry absorbed perspective studies into their context.
18Kemp, 19Kemp,

Barbaro wrote an

unpublished book on perspective entitled "La practica della perspettiva" which centered on the Barbaro had little contact with artistic practice, dismissing artists who were his contemporaries stating that their understanding of perspective

Martin. The Science of Art. p.76 Martin. The Science of Art. p.76 20Kemp, Martin. The Science of Art. p.78


It was the explicit postulation of Kepler in 1604, based on the implicit inference by Alberti, that parallel lines in a perspective meet at infinity, which marked the separation between classical and modern perspective perceptual thought. Soon after this, the mathematician Girard Desargues embraced the specific problem of perspective representation, which evolved into studies of the descriptive geometries.22 Ivins argues that the beginning of the "rationalization of sight" through perspectival studies was one of the most important events of the Renaissance. Kemp posits that the perspective theorists up to Kepler barely took the workings of the "eye" into account, stating that "the perceptual mechanisms which resulted in the translation of sensory stimuli into visual knowledge barely entered the perspectivists' picture at all".23 It was not until the eighteenth century in Europe and Britain that the theoretical aspects of optical and geometrical space, and the perceptual aspects of perspective and projective geometry, came to be widely studied and discussed. The influence of spatial representation reached into fields such as cartography and military science, as well as architecture, engineering and painting. The subsequent studies from this point to the modern period, and the theories and treatises regarding the perceptual aspects of perspective representation are too numerous to mention within this context. It must suffice to say that the impact of these ideas and revelations on the field of architectural design and representation is of great significance. manipulation of spatial perception. Ramifications of Perspective Representation on the Design of Space: The connections between perspective representational techniques, spatial perception, and architectural and urban design can be further explored with the students by examining the change in design "styles" following the introduction of a new "method" of perspective representation. Examination of the changes in urban and architectural form from the medieval period to the Renaissance, with the adoption of classicism, humanism and a new interest in geometry and mathematics, illustrates a radical departure from the ad-hoc to the ordering of space. The knowledgeable modern use of perspective is capable of limitless applications in the representation and

21Kemp, 22Ivins,

Martin. The Science of Art. p.80 William M. Jr. On the Rationalization of Sight. p.10 23Kemp, Martin. The Science of Art. p.165


Students will be able to see clearly that the mathematical aspects of design, through the application of geometrical principles in proportion and perspective, when married to humanist interests, resulted in a symmetrical architecture which was well suited, if perhaps statically, to the perspective technique of the costruzione legittima or distance point methods. Classical architecture, with its canon of orders, symmetry and rhythm24 was reinforced by the one-point perspective, with its central axial focus. If we equate the spatial perception of the centric point scheme with that of the axial urban view, we can see how the "standard" Renaissance perspective view, centered and frontal, was used to formalize urban space. The classical restating of cities such as Rome and Haussman's Paris, uses this perspective device to connect and orient the views and perception of the city, capturing the disordered medieval fabric within an ordered geometrical network. Accurate perspective representation, during the Renaissance, was a widely used architectural device. From the large urban scale, through the design of the piazza, and to the built element and interior, one-point perspectives and classical symmetry prevailed. The sequential completion by Alberti, with the Tribune of the Annunziata (1470) in Florence, of Brunelleschi's symmetrical paired Foundling Hospital (1424), illustrates this early obsession with axiality, symmetry and the view. The architectural treatises of this period illustrate as well the preoccupation with the axial view that the centric point scheme provided. The mythical stagesets of Serlio's scenography25, and Viator's illustrated treatise on perspective make essential use of the centered, frontal one-point view -- the axial presentation prevails. It can be evidenced to the students that the choice to use a centrally focused one-point perspective makes a definite statement about the nature of the design to be represented. Likewise, the decision to change the focus to an extreme position in a frontal one-point perspective speaks differently to the design. The discussion of the appropriateness of the marriage of the technique to the architecture to be represented calls for discussion. Single point perspective may be an uncomplimentary choice to represent an asymmetrical contemporary design, but may be entirely appropriate to depict a classically designed building. Bruno Zevi in "The Modern Language of Architecture" harshly attributes the application of Renaissance perspective techniques, citing the static nature of the centric point scheme in


Alexander. Classical Architecture: The Poetics of Order. p.6 "The canonic system that operates when a classical building is being composed or appreciated ... can be summarized through three levels of formal devices: (1) Taxis, which divides the architectural work into parts; (2) Genera, the individual elements that populate the parts as divided by taxis; and (3) Symmetry, the relations between individual elements." 25Serlio, Sebasianto. The Five Books of Architecture. Second Book. Third Chapter. Fol. 24-26.


particular, with the ruination of the ad-hoc and asymmetric richness of architectural and urban design of the medieval period. "The hectacomb took place in the early fifteenth century. perspective. It was the triumph of

Architects stopped working concretely on architecture and limited

themselves to designing it. The damages were enormous; they have increased through the following centuries; and they continue to proliferate with industrialized building techniques. ... Perspective is a drawing technique for representing three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface. To make the job easier, buildings were broken down into squared parts and reduced to regular prisms. An immense visual heritage of curves, asymmetric forms, swerving lines, modulations, and angles other than 90-degree was obliterated in one fell swoop. The world was turned into boxes, and the architectural "orders" were used to distinguish superimposed or juxtaposed parts of the box. ... What perspective should have done was provide a means of acquiring greater awareness of three-dimensionality. Instead it rigidified three-dimensionality to such a degree that drawing it has become something mechanical and almost useless. ... The perspective based revival of classicism drastically impoverished the architectural language. ... In theory, perspective should have provided an instrument to enhance depth. It might have expected to enrich the representation of volumes by the use of dramatic foreshortening. ... Although perspective was introduced in the name of three-dimensionality, it was usually applied to central framing.26 I would argue to my students that the discovery and development of one-point perspective and its resulting ordering of space, was a necessary precursor to the subsequent creation of the fantastic multitude of illusory techniques which were to follow. It was through the expansion of perspective applications during the Baroque period, that the static application of the Renaissance one-point perspective begins to give way to more dynamic perceptual manipulations. The growing recognition of the perceptual powers of the perspective view, combined with Mannerist, and subsequently Baroque thought, culminated in an (urban) architecture fraught with dynamic illusion. Although the geometry of the centric point view was still to be used, architects began to manipulate the ground configuration of the space itself to enhance or exaggerate the perspectival qualities of the view. The design of the Campidoglio by Michaelangelo27, the arrangement by Bernini of the colonnade of Piazza San Pietro (1657)28, and the Scala Regia by Bernini (1670) distort the perceived reality of the defined space by skewing the "sidewalls" or boundaries to increase the element of grandeur.


Bruno. The Modern Language of Architecture. p.23-24 Peter. The Architecture of the Italian Renaissance. p.174-176


"Bernini's design turns to full advantage the difficult context into which the work had to be set; he designed a staircase tapering in width and height from bottom to top, thus accentuating the effect of perspective from the bottom of the stairs."29 The study of the illusory aspects of architectural perspective should address the climax reached in the "painted architecture" of the Baroque with the design of illusionistic ceilings that often made use of anamorphic techniques of projection. A thorough understanding of the principals behind these techniques and some adeptness in their application would be a goal at this point. The ability to manipulate these illusory techniques demonstrates a clear understanding of the perceptual nature of perspective rendering. Several methods should be addressed. Raphael and his assistant Guilio Romano developed geometrical techniques for the design of the ceiling panels, using Romano's "mirror method".30 A number of other methods of foreshortening had been developed, each with varying degrees of success. The first type used systematized reason and perspective projection. Others used practice and acquired experience to sketch freehand the foreshortened figures, with varying degrees of success. The "Codex Huygens" by Carlo Urbino of the mid sixteenth century illustrated several techniques for the perspectival projection of the human figure that were widely used during this period. Urbino set out accurate geometric situations for cases of forms above and below the viewer, those viewed at a close distance, those viewed from afar, those in architectural settings and those without boundaries. He was familiar with Euclid's "Optics" and was concerned with the "force of angles". 31 It is within this context that the science of perspective can be clearly shown to students as becoming engrossed in the positioning of the viewer in relation to the object to be viewed, be it painting, statuary or architectural space. This aspect of perspective construction can no longer be treated casually, as the success of the illusion is quite dependent on the geometry of the "stageset". It is this direct reference to scenographic techniques that becomes an overriding theme in the creation of spatial perception through the representational methods of this period. The height of illusory architecture may be characterized in the work of Andrea Pozzo (1685) in the decoration of the "dome" and the nave vaults of S. Ignazio in Rome. The geometric preparatory work for the illustrating of the dome is recorded in Pozzo's treatise of 1693
28Wodehouse, 29Wodehouse,

Lawrence. A History of Western Architecture. p.292-293 Lawrence. A History of Western Architecture. p.291 30Kemp, Martin. The Science of Art. p.71 "A model of an open loggia is constructed. It is placed over a squared mirror. The eye is stationed at the required point, and the reflection is transcribed square by square on to a squared drawing." 31Kemp, Martin. The Science of Art. p.74


"Perspectiva Pictorum it Architectorum". In Figure 100 he refers to the invention of a lattice or grid device that is to be used to project the figures onto a curved vault. Such mathematically based techniques proved superior to the ad-hoc methods used by some of the illusory artists who relied solely on previous experience. Pozzo's advanced perspective techniques also came to play in his illusory scenography. This type of stage set used angled flats painted with "accelerated" perspectives to alter the depth perception of the stage. The illusionistic work of Ferdinando Galli de Bibiena in his treatise entitled "Architettura civile" of 1711, through his studies in scenographic perspectives. Bibiena advocated the setting of the building sets at a sharp angle to the audience such that diagonal views were created. "These effects were remarkably created by perspective illusion on a series of flats which were more naturally adapted to the standard forms of illusion. The advantage of the new technique was twofold: it lent itself to the creation of dramatic effects of monumental architecture with varied recessions; and it was rather less vulnerable to distortion from different points in the auditorium."32 Students will see through Bibiena's stage design, how the introduction of oblique vanishing points initiated an impression of reality 33 that had been impossible through the simple use of Renaissance one-point perspectives. Bibiena's work is representative of the height of the The geometrical knowledge illusionistic representation achieved during the Baroque period.

attained through the discovery of the illusionistic techniques developed during this period matured into two-point, and eventually three- and four-point perspective representation in the modern period. As a counterpoint to the "pro-perspective discussion", "anti-perspective" initiatives of the 19th century should be addressed. Where an initial interest in mathematics and science often served as a catalyst to increase interest in the development and application of perspective techniques, some interested in science as a means to achieving "economy" were against perspective representation. Perspective representation did not always remain popular throughout the Not all architects were to be convinced of the validity of illusionistic Industrial Revolution.

perspective or architecture as being a truthful representation. It is the 'impression of reality ' that J.N.L. Durand later rejects throughout his teachings as the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris. Durand felt that the plan, section and elevation were the only drawings necessary to communicate the complete and factual idea of a building. These two-dimensional drawings should be simple line



Martin. The Science of Art. p.141 Alberto. Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science. p.191.


drawings, devoid of shading or decoration. representation was architecture.

Durand did not feel it correct to infer that the

"He eschewed the use of atmospheric effects or perspectives, avoided shading, and explicitly rejected watercolor which was 'employed only by those who believed that the objective of architecture was to please the eye'."34 Durand's views regarding representation should be contrasted, however, to those of the visionaries such as Boullee and Ledoux, for whom the representation was the architecture, and the use of illusion, light, shadow and painterly techniques were essential illustrative techniques. Boullee's sectional one-point perspectives can clearly illustrate the appropriate classical application of the technique. A comparison here with Raphael's "School of Athens" both for its view and content helps to clarify these links. A study of the application of perspective representation techniques by artists and architects during the 20th century can be a vast but enlightening undertaking. During the early part of this century, accurate, realistic forms of representation were dropped by many in favor of new spatial visions inspired by the Post Impressionistic paintings of Paul Cezanne, the Cubist Movement in art and architecture, as can be seen in the work of Pablo Picasso, and Italian Futurism as represented by the dynamic paintings and sculpture of Umberto Boccioni. "Linear perspective, dismissed by the Cubist poet Guillaume Apollinaire as a "miserable" device "for making all things shrink", was rejected in favor of a mobile perspective that splintered space into shifting geometrical planes and allowed objects to be shown from several aspects at once."35 Boccioni's paintings may be characterized as tumultuous, using motion, fragmented planes and multiple viewpoints to create a sensation of noise and vitality. He rejects "one-eyed" Renaissance perspective as being the view of a "mere photographer".36 At the same time, we find moderns like Giorgio de Chirico, Paul Klee, Salvadore Dali and M.C. Escher embracing and manipulating perspective representation techniques to create new visions of space, time and reality. In all cases, however, whether perspective representation is to be executed in its "Renaissance form" or not, an in depth knowledge of the science is required to adeptly manipulate the representation to achieve the desired result or illusion..

34Perez-Gomez, 35Cole,

Alberto. Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science. p.308 Alison. Perspective. p.52


Modern architects, students may come to see, approach perspective and its architectural application with serious cause. The work of Mies Van der Rohe, as explained by Dan Hoffmann37 relies heavily on perspectival notions of the "horizon" and horizontality that are used to extend the inhabitation of the space. This he illustrates in his drawings of the Brick Country House Project. "Mies proposed a construction of brick walls that extended indefinitely to the horizon. ... Mies emphasizes the extreme extent of the walls in his perspective drawings by locating the station point of the perspective far off the page so that the walls approach the horizontals of and elevation view."38 Hoffmann also mentions that this flattening serves to make the perspective representation approach that of an orthogonal, versus the axiality of the Serlian one-point. Mies used the materiality of brick in its horizontal bands to reinforce this notion of horizon. A comparison with the works of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School, with the idea of materiality, representational techniques and horizon continue this view and extreme use of traditional twopoint perspective rendering techniques. Students should see the perspectival inventions of Alvar Aalto in contrast to this reference to the "horizon". Randall Ott writes on Aalto and his inventive use of perspective for its distortionary advantages as a design tool, not merely as a representational device. "Aalto, though, was one of the rare architects who made perspectival distortions even in instances lacking any depth constraints. While he did at times use it to lengthen, his most imaginative creations came when he employed it solely for the peculiar spatial tensions and dynamics that it induced. Another difference was Aalto's emphasis on a moving observer. While he certainly acknowledged the importance of the station point-and indeed he always led us across it initially--he did not require the observer to stay fixed there. A dynamic interaction of viewer and viewed was Aalto's own contribution to the field of perspective inventions."39 The students' study of Aalto's inventions as they are applied to the Villa Schildt, the Riola Parish Church and the Jyvaskyla Town Hall should aid in crystallizing the architectural intent of applied perspective.

Alison. Perspective. p.55 Dan. In Response to Sight and Site. 38Hoffmann, Dan. In Response to Sight and Site. 39Ott, Randall. The Perspectival Inventions of Alvar Aalto. p.172


Conclusion: The teaching of two-point perspective techniques, following such an informed study of the perspective inventions within its history should result in a far more meaningful understanding of the design and representational capabilities of perspective--to establish perspective rendering as a creative springpoint for design concepts and notions, and not limited to a static representational device. It will be the students' knowledge that it was the full comprehension of the mathematical structure of perspective and the associated geometries which aided in the evolution of perspective representational techniques and which allows the designer to fully appreciate, exploit and manipulate the perceptual impact of this type of imagery. For this reason, the full exploration and exploitation of perspective representational techniques and their ramifications on spatial perception, must involve an educated understanding of the historical, mathematical and scientific origins of the process, as well as their application in rendering and architectural design. Without an adequate understanding of the process, designers will be unable to successfully select and create their "illusion of reality". "Mathematics is the majestic structure conceived by man to grant him comprehension of the universe. It holds both the absolute and the infinite, the understandable and the forever elusive. It has walls before which one may pace up and down without result; sometimes there is a door; one opens it -- enters -one is in another realm, the realm of gods, the room which holds the key to the great systems. These doors are the doors of the miracles. Having gone through one, man is no longer the operative force, but rather it is his contact with the universe. In front of him unfolds and spreads out the fabulous fabric of numbers without end. He is in the country of numbers. He may be a modest man and yet have entered just the same. Let him remain, entranced by so much dazzling, allpervading light." Le Corbusier. Le Modulor40


Corbusier. Le Modulor. p. 71


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Argan, Giulio C. The Renaissance City. New York: George Braziller, 1969. Bartschi, Willy A. Linear Perspective: Its history, directions for construction, and aspects in the environment and in the fine arts. Toronto: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1981. Bosse, Abraham. Maniere Universele de Monsieur Desargues. Alburgh: Archival Facsimiles Limited, 1987. Cole, Alison. Perspective: A Visual Guide to the Theory and Techniques from the Renaissance to Pop Art. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited, 1992. Descargues, Pierre. Traites de Perspective. Paris: Ste. Nlle des Editions du Chene, 1976. Edgerton, Samuel Y. Jr. The Renaissance Rediscovery of Linear Perspective. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1975. Forseth, Kevin. Graphics for Architecture. Toronto: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1980. Gadol, Joan. Leon Battista Alberti: Universal Man of the Early Renaissance. Chicago:

University of Chicago Press, 1969. Hoffman, Dan. In Response to Site and Sight: From the Edge of the Horizon - Considerations Upon the Work of Mies Van der Rohe. ACSA Regional Conference, University of Waterloo, October 22 - 24, 1992. Ivins, William M. Jr. On The Rationalization of Sight. New York: Da Capo Press, 1973. Kemp, Martin. The Science of Art: Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992. Kubovy, Michael. The Psychology of Perspective and Renaissance Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Lamy, Bernard. Perspective Made Easie. Alburgh: Archival Facsimiles Limited, 1987. Le Corbusier. Le Modulor. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1977.


Leonardo Da Vinci. South Bank Centre: Hayward Gallery, London. Exhibition Catalogue: 26 January to 16 April, 1989. Moffett, Marian and Lawrence Wodehouse. A History of Western Architecture. Mountain View: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1989. Ott, Randall. The Perspectival Inventions of Alvar Aalto. ACSA Regional Conference, University of Waterloo, October 22 - 24, 1992. Perez-Gomez, Alberto. Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1984. Pozzo, Andrea. Perspective in Architecture and Painting. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1989. Serlio, Sebastiano. The Five Books of Architecture. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1982. Vredeman de Vries, Jan. Perspective. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1968. Zevi, Bruno. The Modern Language of Architecture. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1978.